Over the past 5 months, Beyond Borders, the first cohort of the Refugee Livelihood Lab has been tackling complex systemic issues facing our communities.
Issues like labour exploitation and precarious work, lack of credential recognition, discrimination, social isolation, racism and pressure to assimilate all emerged as barriers to thriving livelihoods.
Our purpose has been to experiment with shifting the patterns that sustain these problems, through the development of practical on the ground projects, and building a shared understanding of what’s holding problematic systems in place.
The Beyond Borders Celebration was an opportunity for participants to share their projects with the broader community, and seek input and support to continue to develop their work.
To do this, we developed principles to guide us. For example, to counter the pattern of racism and devaluing of newcomer skills/experience, a principle of ours was: Center the leadership of racialized migrants.
As many of you might have felt in the room – this led to deep experiences of collective power and joy in recognizing each other’s brilliance. We’ll be sharing more about our learnings throughout the lab process – but in the meantime, here are our top 5 moments from the celebration!
1. Breaking in City Hall: What a thrill to be with more than 150 Black, Indigenous, Muslim, and newcomer families coming out to show their love, support and leadership. For many, it was their first time in the Surrey City Hall building!
2. Children Dancing in the Center: Music and LOTS of dancing! Our DJ’s Ajay and Anjali kept us moving. We loved seeing different groups get dancing as the global music playlist progressed – capturing themes of solidarity, love, resistance and FUN. And who can forget the children dazzling us with their moves. The presence of children helps build community.
3. Amplifying Projects that Matter: At the end of the night, each project took home new connections and an envelope filled with messages from influencers in the community. We loved seeing Beyond Borders members owning the stage, showcasing their work, giving and receiving A LOT of support.
4. Sharing the Food: Even the security staff got to take home some of the luscious food catered by talented refugee women-run businesses through the Global Market. If you are looking for delicious and affordable catering, this is the number to call: (604)498-3137.
5. Poetry that Moves Worlds: Spoken word poets Valeen Jules and Ayan Ismail helped us feel things that needed feeling. Themes included what it means to celebrate Canada 150 on stolen land, impact of family separation due to war, and how the “Global South” is still seen as a problematic place that needs saving.
Creating a platform by and for newcomer women with micro-businesses to develop their capacity, expand their markets, build community, and thrive.
The Ask: Spaces to host markets, marketing and media support, sponsors and grants for our project which will help us achieve our goal of empowering newcomer women to improve their status in their homes and socially.